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20 Best Horror Scripts to Download and Read For Free.

And learn how to write a horror movie by learning from the best.

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by Script Reader Pro in Best Screenplays to Read
February 2, 2017 91 comments
best Horror scripts

20 horror scripts to download and take your horror writing to the next level.

Below you’ll find twenty classic horror scripts that every screenwriter who wants to write horror should study.

We’re massive proponents of finding the best screenplays to read in order to improve your writing craft. So, if you’re a budding horror writer (or aspiring writer of any genre) download these horror scripts and learn from the best.

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1. Annabelle. 

Horror screenplays are, of course, not all about gore and shocks. You need to know how to write the quieter moments too, such as this great scene from the first Conjuring spin-off: Annabelle.

Horror scripts

The script was written by Gary Dauberman and it signaled his arrival as a sought-after Hollywood writer after a couple of schlocky B-movies. He favors a Walter Hill (The Getaway, Alien) minimalist writing style, with sentences either broken up within the paragraph, or hugging the left margin, almost like bullet points.

Best Screenplays To Read

2. Annihilation. 

Alex Garland co-wrote the script for Annihilation with Jeff VanderMeer who wrote the original novel. It’s an understated, psychological horror that was highly anticipated back in 2018 after Garland’s string of successful thrillers and horrors, such as The Beach, 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go.

best horror scripts to read

Don’t pay too much attention to the formatting as Garland and VanderMeer commit a number of “errors” that aspiring screenwriters are told never to do. CUT TOs are justified left, sluglines are in bold and underlined, and character names are in ALL CAPS to name but a few. Rather, concentrate on the way Garland and VanderMeer slowly build the tension to a horrifying climax.

Best Screenplays To Read

3. Candyman. 

Fans of the original 1992 Candyman film eagerly anticipated this follow-up, and most weren’t disappointed. Jordan Peele (Get Out) and co-writers Win Rosenfeld and Nia DaCosta, have crafted a horror screenplay that delivers a genuinely creepy atmosphere along with, of course, out and out scares.

best horror screenplays to read

Pro tip: Reference and take elements from other horror scripts that fit in your own. For example, having been brought on to co-write Candyman, DaCosta referenced The Fly for the body horror moments. And also Rosemary’s Baby (see below) for the way it handles the psychological terror inflicted on its protagonist.

Best Screenplays To Read

4. Doctor Sleep. 

While there may be a case to be made that Stephen King’s writings are at their scariest when they’re about politics, there’s no doubting the fact that his novels have resulted in some great horror movies. Carrie, Stand By Me, The Shining (which King famously hated), to name but a few—and now also Doctor Sleep.

best horror screenplays to read

Screenwriter, Mike Flanagan, the man behind some of the best horror scripts of recent years, such as Oculus (see below), uses a lot of ALL CAPS in his scripts. Some might say it’s overused, but look at the way it creates tension and forces you to focus on what’s important in the scene.

Best Screenplays To Read

5. Halloween. 

This screenplay was written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in only ten days (or three weeks, depending on whose version you hear). Either way, it’s a very short time to create one of the best horror scripts of all time.

best horror scripts to read
Part of its enduring appeal is the simplicity of its concept: A child who murdered his babysitter, escapes from a mental hospital to stalk a babysitter and her friends, all the while being pursued by his psychiatrist. This logline virtually writes the script itself and so in that sense it’s no wonder Carpenter and Hill were able to knock it out so quickly.

Best Screenplays To Read

6. Happy Death Day. 

This is the first of a few horror comedies on the list—a great genre to watch but notoriously hard to pull off as a writer. Obviously because it requires a talent for writing both horror and comedy.

best horror screenplays to read

Happy Death Day was written by comic book writer, Scott Lobdell, and was his first big success as a screenwriter. Like all good writers, Lobdell approached the script by asking himself, How can I create something different? In this case, it meant playing around with the slasher genre and subverting our expectations about the protagonist—ultimately making her more interesting than one usually found in slasher movies.

Best Screenplays To Read

7. The Hunt. 

This is one of the best horror scripts of recent times when it comes to mixing horror, action and black humor. Despite the controversy surrounding the film, its satire is way less on-the-nose (and potentially offensive) than in a like, say, Don’t Look Up. But where it shines is as a pure escapist horror.

best horror scripts

And the writing style is something else—bold, brash, and very tongue-in-cheek. If you’re wondering what a writer’s “voice” looks like on the page, reading The Hunt is a great place to start. The first page sets the tone perfectly with an onscreen text message conversation between all the hunt attendees—formatted just like a text conversation on a cell phone.

Best Screenplays To Read

8. It Follows. 

This is an inventive horror screenplay from David Robert Mitchell and was only his second feature. When writing horror scripts, one of the most important things to do early on is establish tone. Let’s take a look at the opening lines in It Follows:

Horror scripts

Not only is the tone established right away, but we’re thrown into a situation and a character in action—a girl trying to escape something unseen on a suburban street at night. With all these factors, we’re immediately hooked. Avoid static openings—and script dialogue in which we merely see characters sitting around shooting the breeze—by connecting with our primal fears like how Mitchell does here.

Best Screenplays To Read

9. Let Me In. 

This 2010 horror film is even better if you haven’t seen the original Swedish version that came out just two years earlier: Let the Right One In. The writer, Matt Reeves, favors the “grab the reader by the throat right off the bat” approach, and on page one we’re thrown right into the action with a thrilling scene in the back of an ambulance.

read horror screenplays

His style is very action orientated, favoring heavy doses of underlining, ALL CAPS, and even exclamation points! While this draft is also heavy on the camera directions—which is not recommended in a spec script—a good takeaway is his use of mini-sluglines to highlight specific objects in a scene. Overall, this is a must-read modern horror script for all budding horror writers.

Best Screenplays To Read

10. The Lighthouse. 

If you’re writing a similarly paced, single-location, psychological horror, this screenplay by British screenwriters, Robert and Max Eggers, is essential reading. While horror isn’t a genre that’s known for generating particularly complex characters, the exception to this rule is psychological horror, and The Lighthouse is a great example of this.

best horror screenplays to read

The Eggers brothers wanted to really explore the existential psychosis of their two lead characters—Thomas Howard and Thomas Wake—both of whom are sent to man a remote lighthouse in 1890s New England. They achieved this by reading a lot of maritime-related old literature: Herman Melville, H. P. Lovecraft, nineteenth century Welsh myth, Robert Louis Stevenson and more.

Best Screenplays To Read

horror scripts

11. Martyrs. 

Starting a horror movie with someone (usually a young woman or child) is something of a cliche, but Martyrs does it so well you’re immediately hooked. In just the opening three pages of the script, we’re thrown into the action of a terrified ten-year-old girl running through “the shitty part of town,” detectives checking out the building she’s just escaped from, before settling in that obligatory horror script location… the orphanage.

read horror screenplays

And in there among the kids is Lucie—the girl from page one—acting weird and drawing a picture of a “small figure sitting in a single chair at the center of a square room. What looks like it could be a small bucket rests just beneath the chair.” Ask yourself if your horror script will make a reader keep turning the pages like this. And if not, fix it.

Best Screenplays To Read

12. Midsommar. 

Screenwriter/director Ari Aster followed up the hugely successful Hereditary (read the Hereditary screenplay here) with this horror about a couple’s visit to a Swedish mid-summer festival gone wrong.

horror scripts

As Aster struggled to conceive the story, everything clicked into place when he realized that the two central characters should be on the verge of breaking up. He then wrote the whole script based around this central idea—with the bizarre cultish events that unfold at the festival forming a thematic representation of the characters’ demise as a couple.

Best Screenplays To Read

13. The Night House. 

Screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski are the duo behind 2017’s acclaimed indie thriller, Super Dark Times. They favor a sparse writing style with lots of mini-sluglines directing the eye around a location, as shown in this scene from page 46:

horror screenplays read

The idea for this horror script came directly from a fear of death. As Piotrowski explains: “I often wake up in the middle of the night, wrestling with mortality… And as a horror writer, it’s like, “Well, shit. Is there a movie in there? Can we bottle that experience? Can we craft a horror film out of those late-night fears and insecurities?” Well, they certainly pulled it off here with The Night House.

Best Screenplays To Read

14. Oculus. 

This is the second horror screenplay on the list by Mike Flanagan—a much underrated film from 2013. It was co-written with Jeff Howard, and is an expansion on an original short written by Flanagan and Jeff Seidman.

read horror scripts

As outlined in our post, How to Use Your Short Film Scripts to Start Your Writing Career many pro screenwriters found breakthroughs in their careers via short films. While Flanagan had written and directed features before, it wasn’t until he turned his critically acclaimed short, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan, containing one location, one actor and a mirror, into a feature that his career really took off.

Best Screenplays To Read

15. A Quiet Place. 

If you ever need an example of how to write a screenplay visually, this is it. Writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had collaborated before on a couple of low budget features, but it was their spec for A Quiet Place that caught the attention of actor John Krasinski who joined the team as a writer/director.

best horror screenplay

The script is also very idiosyncratic. Apart from the fact that there’s hardly any dialogue, it also contains act breaks, images, diagrams, strikethroughs and formatting anomalies like the fantastic “Longest Walk of His Life” section on page 15. The thing is, it works. But we recommend not overdoing this style in a spec.

Best Screenplays To Read

16. The Ring. 

It’s also important when writing horror screenplays that your writing style has the chops to elicit a fear response in the reader. For example, inevitably you’re going to want to have a character creep down a hallway.  By reading horror scripts like The Ring (written by Ehren Kruger and the great Scott Frank) you’ll absorb exactly how to do it, rather than kinda-sorta bumbling along.

In this scene, read how Kruger and Frank show Rachel wake up with an uneasy feeling about her son:

Horror scripts

Note the judicious use of ALL CAPS, ellipses, em dashes and the mini-slug line, “AND FIND AIDEN AT THE TV.” This is great writing, but the best part about it is that you can incorporate all or some of these techniques into your own horror screenplays to make them stand out from the pack.

Best Screenplays To Read

17. Rosemary’s Baby. 

No list of the best horror screenplays of all time would be complete without this—the forerunner of all satanic child-themed movies that came after it, from The Exorcist to The Omen and beyond.

best horror scripts

Whether true or not, there’s an amusing anecdote involving Roman Polanski’s writing process. Apparently, having never adapted a novel into a screenplay before, he didn’t realize he was allowed to change anything. As a result, the screenplay remains very faithful to Ira Levin’s novel.

Best Screenplays To Read

18. Scream. 

The setups in horror scripts generally go either one of two ways:

• A slow-burn opening that draws the reader into the lives of its characters, or…

• A shocking first scene that immediately hooks the reader in and sets the tone.

The writer of Scream, Kevin Williamson, opted for the latter and it’s become one of the most iconic opening scenes in horror movie history. While very tongue-in-cheek, and much satirized over the years, you can probably still remember the impact of watching this scene for the first time.

If you decide to go for a gore-fest opening intending to grab the reader’s attention like this, there’s no better place to start. Here’s the moment when the scene takes a major turning point as the caller loses it, showing Drew his true nature:

Horror scripts

 

When writing a scene, remember that the “big” ones in horror scripts like this, usually change in their emotional charge from positive to negative. Or vice versa.

Best Screenplays To Read

19. The Shining. 

This classic horror script from Stanley Kubrick and co-writer Diane Johnson is a shooting script, so contains a few formatting idiosyncrasies. It’s not a movie script format generally recommended for aspiring screenwriters, but the screenplay is just too good to overlook (sorry, we couldn’t resist) for any writer intending to master how to write a horror script. Here’s an excerpt from the famous scene in which Wendy retreats up the staircase swinging a baseball bat at her increasingly deranged husband, Jack:

Horror scripts

It’s also worth reading this horror script and noting how the emphasis is more on Danny and his imaginary friend than Jack and his slow descent into evil as seen in the finished movie.

Best Screenplays To Read

20. You’re Next.

Last, but most definitely not least, is this Simon Barrett written film that’s one of the best horror scripts of the modern era. Barrett, who also wrote similarly humorous, The Guest, wrote You’re Next in response to his director friend, Adam Wingard, telling him that he wanted to do a home invasion film.

read horror scripts
As noted by Wingard, there’s something particularly terrifying about home invasion horror movies. There are no ghosts, no monsters, no invisible men. Just the real-life scenario of a psychopath entering your home. Albeit in this case with a fantastic mix of horror, Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, and screwball comedy.

Best Screenplays To Read

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What are your favorite horror scripts? How much have you learnt from reading horror screenplays and breaking them down? Let us know in the comments section below.

Don’t forget if you’ve got a horror script you’d like us to review, check out our script coverage services.

horror scripts

Enjoyed this post? Here are more of the best screenplays to read…

50 of the Best Screenplays to Read and Download in Every Genre

50 of the Best TV Scripts to Download and Study to Improve Your Writing

How to Write a Screenplay That’s Unlike Any Other in 6 Steps

[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

91 Comments
  1. Suraj says:

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  2. Joab Stieglitz says:

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    Hope this will help. Thank you.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for Joab!

  3. Fareed says:

    Love this, thank you

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Fareed!

  4. Irene says:

    Am finding it difficult to download the scripts, can you please email it to me ? Irenetetteh001@gmail.com
    Thanks

  5. Stephen Foster says:

    I have an original screenplay the 1st of a trilogy which I will make into a movie can someone help me with finding production

  6. baccarat says:

    2019 year has a best movies !

  7. Matt says:

    These are the best horror scripts??

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s all subjective, of course, but these are all great horror scripts aspiring writers should read and study.

  8. Dewayne Hulette says:

    Very nice // thank you for posting these horror scripts.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Dewayne!

  9. Veronica Chapman says:

    This is great, thank you SRP!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Veronica!

  10. Edgar T says:

    Hi i have an awesome horror script that needs to be seen on the big screen! Pls mail me at edgar76writer@aol.com

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We can help you with the script if you want to choose a coverage service but we’re not a production company.

  11. Claudia Cortez says:

    Good stuff, thx.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Claudia.

  12. Jason Samuels says:

    I LOVE It Follows . Best horror movie of last 5 years. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, it’s a good one 🙂

  13. Sadie Parsons says:

    Do you have the script to Suspiria the new version?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sorry, no.

  14. Marc Kundinger says:

    Wow, this is great thank u!!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Marc!

  15. Rosie G. says:

    These horror scripts came just at the right time for me.. thank you script reader pro.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Rosie.

  16. Boris B says:

    Hi, thanks for posting these. I have downloaded and will read in the next week.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Happy reading, Boris!

  17. Yuki says:

    I am regular visitor, are you posting more screenplays soon?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes 🙂

  18. Trey Brooks says:

    I always used to study horror scripts but had forgotten to do it recently. This post came just at the right time.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad to hear it, Trey!

  19. Omar says:

    This was a lot of fun to read!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Omar!

  20. Yannick says:

    why can’t I download the script on my phone, even if I download them, it won’t open.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      If you download to a laptop/desktop it will work.

  21. Crit killen says:

    Thank you for these script! I teach screenwriting at UtahValley University and this will greatly help as examples!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad we could help!

  22. Avery M says:

    Please upload the script to Quiet Place. Thank you.

  23. Dora Collins says:

    I have to admit I don’t read as many scripts as I should. Will download these tho and get to it.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s one of the best ways to learn how to write 🙂

  24. Callum says:

    My relatives all the time say that I am wasting my time trying to become a screenwriter. This site gives me hope. Thank you srp.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, if you’re having fun writing, don’t listen to what other people say.

  25. Ollie B says:

    Does your site have a contact phone number? I need to speak to you about buying and or producing my film script. Its a horror script and is bound to shock and scare audiences for years to come. Interested then email me back.

  26. Tony says:

    Hi there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find the third Alien movie script?

  27. Anderson Easterling says:

    I have read most of these already. Upload some new horror scripts and I’ll be back.

  28. Olivia S says:

    Thanks for sharing these. Great stuff!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Enjoy!

  29. Megan Braintree says:

    I was curious if you ever considered doing this for comedies?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s on the to-do list, Megan!

  30. Lucinda Kovaks says:

    Excellent, what a resource this is for screenwriters!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Lucinda!

  31. Jolie says:

    Hmm is anyone else having problems downloading the Shining screenplay?

  32. Chris North says:

    Horror scripts are better seen on screen.

  33. Yolanda says:

    This is my first time reading screenplays. Very inlightening…

  34. Alejandro Perez says:

    I really like all of these movies. Great selection!

  35. Sheri Hamilton says:

    It’s hard sitting down to read a script. Would much rather be doing something else but I know it is useful for my career 🙁

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s not always easy, Sheri, but essential if you want to learn how to write.

  36. Danielle L says:

    I have been looking for the Others script for a long time. Do you have it?

  37. Sienna Griffin says:

    Keep up the great work Script Reader!.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We will – thanks, Sienna!

  38. Denz Lowhot says:

    I intended to say I know I will GET to a level …

  39. Denz Lowhot says:

    I am really so grateful for what you are doing. I know I will to a level my surrounding would never imagine I would because of what this website is adding on to my resources and abilities. Thanks a zillion SRP.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Denz!

  40. Emily Bronwick says:

    What are the real benefits of reading screenplays? I read them then try to write my own but they never get anywhere.

  41. Tanishk Nigam says:

    If you don’t mind can i talk to you personally related to some script work.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sure thing – feel free to email us.

  42. Tanishk Nigam says:

    you are great buddy

  43. Charles Ofuyo says:

    Hello can I shoot using scream script please its really amazing

  44. Deacon Mulgrave says:

    I think this is the best screenwriting blog out there. Kudos to you all at script reader pro. You’ve helped me and my writing so much I wish I could buy you all a beer!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Deacon! You’re too kind.

  45. Lexie Jonson says:

    Thank you for the great writeup as usual. I’m reading Annabelle and it is a great horror script as you say.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Lexi and glad you’re enjoying the script!

  46. Perry Guizar says:

    Where is Alien? How can you write a post on the best horror scripts to read and not include this timeless classic?

  47. MM says:

    THE NUN was an incredible horror script written by Dauberman! You can tell how his writing evolved to another level in it. Can’t wait to see the movie

  48. Danny Harris says:

    I want to read more scripts but don’t have the time..

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Have you seen this post, Danny? 48 Ways to Become the Most Productive Screenwriter You Know.

  49. Daniel victory says:

    I’m really glad to come across your post. Thanks a lot, it really helped.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad to hear it – thanks Daniel!

  50. Leoma says:

    Thanks, this website is really useful to us writers.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Leoma! Hope the writing’s going well.

  51. Lewis says:

    Thanks guys!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      No problem, Lewis!

  52. Clive Carpenter says:

    Great choices. I’ve read these screenplays. I write with the same style a Walter Hill, too. I have always written like that, even when I was a kid in the 80s honing my craft as a writer long before the public had total access to screenplays like we do today.

    I’ve published 3 books of horror fiction and my readers love that style of writing because it’s quick to read and my choppy, minimalist style makes the horror feel more visceral.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Very true – good luck with the writing, Clive.

  53. Siddhaarth Bhardwaj says:

    Don’t know how much you helped me… Many – Many thanks to you…

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome!

  54. Satyam says:

    Really a great post. Worth reading. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Satyam!

  55. Hoan Lee says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing the scripts. Don’t ever think that we can see these script online, but now I can study them on my laptop.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Hoan!

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